Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Attend a Department Meeting

After eighteen years as a member of the University of Colorado Philosophy Department - eighteen! - I have finally learned how to attend a department meeting:

1) Don't sit at the big main table. Sit on the couch over in the corner.
2) Sit with the other people who have chosen to sit on the couch over in the corner.
3) Knit!

What a difference this strategy makes! I used to get all hot and bothered about various ultimately trivial issues, flushing with anger, raising my voice, getting drawn into the fray.

Forget the fray! Instead, I have now learned the sweet pleasures of the fringe.

To the right of me, a colleague was reading something on his laptop; to the left of me, another colleague was reading some kind of manuscript - it might have had something to do with the topic of the meeting, or not. In between the two of them, I knitted. I have made a commitment this semester to my fellow knitters in our Philosophy Department knitting group, the Knitted Brow, to complete one square a week for my perpetually unfinished afghan, so I knit without guilt - nay, with a steadfast sense of virtue. I completed my square and slipped briefly out of the meeting to clip my yarn (I had forgotten to bring a pair of scissors); I cast on a new square when I returned.

It was somewhat hard to hear from our out-of-the-way corner. I voted yes whenever the rest of them voted yes. There was no occasion on which I needed to vote no. I tuned in periodically, when a favorite colleague was speaking. For the rest, I kept track of my knitting and purling.

There was one unfortunate moment when I got too absorbed in departmental business and had to rip out a row, but I took care of it without any audible sighs or moans.

After eighteen years, in one day, I finally figured out how to attend a Philosophy Department meeting.

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